The Cyclades 5000 years ago
The Cyclades are a group of many small islands in the south-central part of the Aegean Sea, forming a virtual land bridge between Mainland Greece and Asia Minor. The name “Cyclades,” or Κυκλάδες in Greek, from the word κύκλος meaning circle, was used by the ancient Greek historians Herodotus and Thucydides, along with many others.
A very ancient island culture…
The Cycladic civilization was born in the Cyclades, the small islands in the Aegean, about 5000 years ago, in the Bronze Age. During this period, humans discovered metals and started using them to create various objects. The metal mainly used was bronze, hence the name of the era.
Where did they live?
The Cycladic people initially lived in small towns, near the sea. They cultivated their fields, they kept animals and they fished. They soon became capable seamen and, with their ships, they traveled to other places and exchanged their products.
Their houses were small, with walls made of stone and mud, and roofs made of wooden beams, reeds and clay. No written documents survive from the Cycladic civilization. We draw information about the way they lived and their art, from pottery, weapons, tools and figurines found by archaeologists in excavations.
The Cycladic Civilization developed during the Early Bronze Age in 3200 BC. and its end dates back to around 2000 BC, the era during which the Minoans of Crete fought with inhabitants of the Cyclades for rule over the Aegean Sea.
Minoan -and later Mycenaean- Art gradually prevailed in all expressions of Cycladic Civilization until the end of the Bronze Age, around 1100 BC.
Periods of Cycladic Civilization
Cycladic Civilization is also referred to as Early Cycladic and is divided into three periods (Early Cycladic I, II and III). It became famous mainly for its small marble figurines that were found abundantly in tombs and settlements.
- – Early Cycladic I period (ECI) 3200 – 2800 BC
- – Early Cycladic II period (ECII) 2800 – 2300 BC
- – Early Cycladic III period (ECIII) 2300 – 2000 BC
SEARCH AND LEARN
- ➜ The Cyclades form a circle around which island?
- ➜ How many islands belong to the Cyclades complex?
- ➜ Do you know which is the largest island of the Cyclades?
TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION
The end of Cycladic Culture and Cycladic Art dates back to around 2000 BC.
- ➜ Discuss which civilization claimed dominance over the Aegean among the ancient Cycladic people?
SUGGESTIONS FOR CLASS WORK
School children, particularly those of primary school age, do not always have a clear idea of precisely what the Cyclades are.
- 1. Teachers may devise a simple geography game, distributing to the children a map on which the Cyclades are marked, giving the name of each island.
- 2. The Cyclades may be enlarged, and the children are asked to cut out each island separately.
- 3. The class may then be divided into two groups and asked to place the islands in their correct position, with the map before them.